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Fallen Pastors Can Be Restored, Part 1

I’ve put up an article over at Provoketive Magazine: “Fallen Pastors Can Be Restored, Part 1.” It’s a story of my own journey back to restoration. I hope it offers hope to those who have fallen, insight to those who might have anger towards those who have sinned, and maybe understanding...

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The Practice of Love

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, love, writing | Posted on 30-04-2011

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The book in which I contributed an essay under my pseudonym, Arthur Dimmesdale is now out and available for purchase. The book is entitled, “The Practice of Love: Real Stories of Living Into the Kingdom of God.” My chapter is entitled “Fear and Loathing in the Pulpit.”

I’m very excited about this opportunity and even more excited about the compilation of other stories in the book. Here’s a description from the publisher:

“What would it look like to practice love? Published by Civitas Press, this non-fiction work asks, What would happen if we actively chose to engage a deep sense of love even in hard places? The possibilities include a love for God, a love for the self, a love for a neighbor, and even a love for an enemy. What emerges will inspire and challenge the reader to reconsider what it means to live out the practice of love in our daily lives.

At a critical time, when people are longing for something deeper than traditional religion, the practice of love offers readers an opportunity to explore a deeper element of faith, one that moves the individual beyond a safe and comfortable zone known as ‘the box’, and into something alive and real.”

While writing my essay, I actually went through a change. God humbled me and used my writing process to show me how prideful my heart still was even though I thought I had changed. He showed me that I actually hated myself and needed to see myself as He saw me.

I hope you’ll purchase it and enjoy the wide selection of writing within.

Even cooler? It’s available on Kindle.

Other authors have also written about their experience on their blogs:

Kathy Escobar: Loving God by Loving People

Anna Snoeyenbos:The Practice of Love: Real Stories of Living into the Kingdom of God

Idelette McVicker: Loving Myself, A Woman

Marian Struble: Practicing Love

Jake Kampe: The Practice of Love

Jeremy Myers: Grilling Your Enemies

Kara Maddox: The Practice of Love Reflections

Alise Wright: The Practice of Love

Civitas Press Partners With Ray Carroll

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book | Posted on 28-04-2011

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Civitas Press Partners With Ray Carroll.

My press release is here – pretty excited about it. Click the link to check it out.

My Mess, God’s Message: Prelude To A Fall

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, church, forgiveness, judgment, pastoring, sin, Uncategorized | Posted on 27-04-2011

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So, here’s my story in earnest.

I grew up in beautiful Russellville, Arkansas in a Christian home. I had a goofy sister (she’s still goofy) and a good network of friends. My dad was a health physicist, which means he was Homer Simpson and worked at the local nuclear power plant. My mom was a stay-at-home mom but also penned ten Christian books in her spare time.

I left Arkansas to attend Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri to pursue studies to be a certified athletic trainer. At the end of my junior year, my college roommate was killed in a car accident along with four other students. It was one of several turning points in my life. It was also around that time that I started dating my ex-wife. We got married shortly after we graduated the next year.

From there, we went to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky where I pursued a Master’s degree in exercise science. While there, I also received the call to ministry. It was there that I also found a wonderful church and my mentor, Jim Simmons. I was only there two years, but the people there were some of the best friends I ever made.

From there, I went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a Master of Divinity in Theology. It was a lot of information to process. That experience broke me down then built me back up. My first daughter was born while I was there. When I left seminary, I felt like I was ready to pastor anywhere.

We left Louisville and came to Western Kentucky for a sports medicine job. Shortly after, I was called by a smaller church and I started being a bi-vocational pastor. I stayed in that position for eight  years until my fall. It was during those eight years that my second daughter was born.

Just to set the scene for the rest of the story, I need to be clear about what I’m going to write about and what I won’t write about. I won’t be saying anything negative about my ex-wife or my former church. That’s not what this is about. I will, however, be writing about my experience, what I went through, and the social issues around me.

So, I will tell you this. When I got out of seminary, I was very judgmental. I regret that.

When I saw sin in the church, I wanted to judge it. I wanted it gone. I wanted it to be severed from the fellowship. It made me angry. I honestly thought I was “hating the sin and loving the sinner” but I wasn’t. I can remember Sundays where I was preaching from an angry place in my heart.If I had been pastor and someone had done what I did, I would have run them off with a fifty pound bible and a sack of doorknobs. In fact, there were times I was very harsh to people about their sin and I thought I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t. I was being judgmental and unloving. I showed no compassion.

I’ve learned on the other side of my sin that our Savior is a compassionate, longsuffering Savior. Does He hate sin? Yes. But He absolutely loves the sinner. He is kind, patient, understanding and spends time listening to them.

While pastoring, I loved preaching and I’d like to think I did a pretty good job. I loved interacting with people. I loved Lord’s Supper Sunday. I loved fellowshipping. But too often, I lacked a compassionate heart when it came to sinners. And that, my friends, is a key part of being a shepherd.

I hope others may learn from my mistakes. Thank God He has forgiven me for that heart attitude and has healed me. Thank God He has renewed my mind. Thank God for second chances.

My Mess, God's Message: Prelude To A Fall

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, church, forgiveness, judgment, pastoring, sin, Uncategorized | Posted on 27-04-2011

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So, here’s my story in earnest.

I grew up in beautiful Russellville, Arkansas in a Christian home. I had a goofy sister (she’s still goofy) and a good network of friends. My dad was a health physicist, which means he was Homer Simpson and worked at the local nuclear power plant. My mom was a stay-at-home mom but also penned ten Christian books in her spare time.

I left Arkansas to attend Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri to pursue studies to be a certified athletic trainer. At the end of my junior year, my college roommate was killed in a car accident along with four other students. It was one of several turning points in my life. It was also around that time that I started dating my ex-wife. We got married shortly after we graduated the next year.

From there, we went to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky where I pursued a Master’s degree in exercise science. While there, I also received the call to ministry. It was there that I also found a wonderful church and my mentor, Jim Simmons. I was only there two years, but the people there were some of the best friends I ever made.

From there, I went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a Master of Divinity in Theology. It was a lot of information to process. That experience broke me down then built me back up. My first daughter was born while I was there. When I left seminary, I felt like I was ready to pastor anywhere.

We left Louisville and came to Western Kentucky for a sports medicine job. Shortly after, I was called by a smaller church and I started being a bi-vocational pastor. I stayed in that position for eight  years until my fall. It was during those eight years that my second daughter was born.

Just to set the scene for the rest of the story, I need to be clear about what I’m going to write about and what I won’t write about. I won’t be saying anything negative about my ex-wife or my former church. That’s not what this is about. I will, however, be writing about my experience, what I went through, and the social issues around me.

So, I will tell you this. When I got out of seminary, I was very judgmental. I regret that.

When I saw sin in the church, I wanted to judge it. I wanted it gone. I wanted it to be severed from the fellowship. It made me angry. I honestly thought I was “hating the sin and loving the sinner” but I wasn’t. I can remember Sundays where I was preaching from an angry place in my heart.If I had been pastor and someone had done what I did, I would have run them off with a fifty pound bible and a sack of doorknobs. In fact, there were times I was very harsh to people about their sin and I thought I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t. I was being judgmental and unloving. I showed no compassion.

I’ve learned on the other side of my sin that our Savior is a compassionate, longsuffering Savior. Does He hate sin? Yes. But He absolutely loves the sinner. He is kind, patient, understanding and spends time listening to them.

While pastoring, I loved preaching and I’d like to think I did a pretty good job. I loved interacting with people. I loved Lord’s Supper Sunday. I loved fellowshipping. But too often, I lacked a compassionate heart when it came to sinners. And that, my friends, is a key part of being a shepherd.

I hope others may learn from my mistakes. Thank God He has forgiven me for that heart attitude and has healed me. Thank God He has renewed my mind. Thank God for second chances.

Adultery: A Lucrative Business?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, blessings, blog, commandments, criticize, david, grace | Posted on 26-04-2011

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Before I continue my story, I have to address an issue I’ve been contemplating for over a year. I’m in the process of writing a book on fallen pastors and have already written an essay on my experience. The essay won’t bring me any income. The book has the possibility of bringing me some, if any.

I started my blog anonymously with the hopes of clearing my thoughts and wanting to help others. At some point, I hoped to write a book. That’s come to fruition.

I found myself asking before I even started writing, “What if I my speaking/book writing ever put me in a place where I profited off my story?”

If it did, I could see where people would view me as someone who would be making money off adultery. If I was standing on the outside looking in, I would be saying, “The only reason you are profiting (whether financially, with fame, or spiritually) now is because you’ve committed adultery. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I’ll be honest. It was a struggle. So, I value your input.

Let me tell you where I am right now and hopefully it’ll give you some insight.

I told my ex-wife a couple of weeks ago everything about my current project. She was encouraging and happy for me that I was helping others. My current pastor knows. I’ve done nothing but be as transparent as possible. I’ve dropped my pseudonym.

About a year and a half ago, I wasn’t ready to proceed with this project. I was proud. I would have been doing it for my own selfish reasons. To get revenge and make my case. But a funny thing happened. God humbled me. He basically said, “Ray, you’re a vile sinner. If you want forgiveness from others, you have to humble yourself in the sight of others. You’re the one who sinned.”

There’s more.

I have a feeling if our local architect, plumber, or gas pumper wrote a book on fallen people, we wouldn’t care. But I’m writing on me. A fallen pastor. And other fallen pastors. Those in ministry who were supposed to hold high the standard of morality. And we failed you. We failed those within the body of Christ miserably. And it hurt. It will resonate for decades.

Forgiveness for those with high expectations placed upon them does not come easy, if ever. And I finally get it. I am ashamed.

I’m not in this to make money, whether anyone believes it or not. My core reason for writing to begin with is to help people. To help fallen ministers. To help hurt churches. Ever since I sinned, I have felt remorse, guilt, and pain for those I hurt. Every time I blog or write, it all comes flooding back to me. I don’t say that to create pity, I just state it as fact.

The real situation is this – the vast majority of people I have hurt have moved on. David says in Psalm 51 that his sin is ever before him. When he committed adultery, I doubt there was ever a day that went by that he didn’t grieve over the sin he committed before God. After talking to many fallen pastors across this country, I can tell you that they think of it daily. I do too. I think the former wives of fallen pastors think of it daily too. I think the women they committed adultery with think of it daily too. However, the churches eventually heal, they grieve, and they move on. They don’t think of it every day. They just move on. They may not be healthy, but they cast it aside.

Writing is a wonderful thing. It is the bridge that carries the emotions from the soul to the world, allowing us to heal. Writing allows us to open our hearts. In doing so, we can help others with their hurts, letting them know they are not alone. My blog has already done that – by the grace of God. I have made so many friends who hurt like I do.

If I was writing as a man who was still committing adultery, I would think that people would have a justified right if I made a single penny on my writings. They should come to my home and in a loving manner ask me why I kept money made from sin.

I will be accused for the rest of my life (if I ever make money for my sin) for profiting on adultery. Let me tell you about my profit.

But here I am. A former pastor. Because of my sin, I have lost a lot. I don’t say that to gain your pity. I made a choice. A choice I live with every day I wake up. I do not see my children every day. Each time I see a former church member who was hurt by my actions, I will watch them avoid me or cast about in anger. Every day I drive by my former church and feel a pang of guilt for what I did. The last two years have been the darkest of my life because of a choice I made.

Am I happy to be with my wife? Do I love her with all my heart? Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world.

But I will live with the consequences of my sin forever. There is no joy in breaking the law of God. It is an offense to Him.

I write not as an adulterer. I write as a forgiven sinner. I do not write as a man seeking to earn money. I write as a man trying to help others prevent sin.

If someone was a former drug addict and found the redeeming grace of God, if someone was a former thief and discovered grace, if someone was a murderer and turned to Christ – if any of these people wrote a book and shared their testimony, most of us would revel in their story. But if a fallen pastor writes about his fall, his adultery, how he broke the heart of his church, his ex-wife, his children, we find a story of hypocrisy.

I am a hypocrite of the highest degree. I used to preach the commandments. I used to preach morality. The things I preached were true – not because of me but because they were God’s truth.

If I write or preach those truths now, the same is true. God’s truth is still true. Whether it comes from the mouth of a morally sound mouth of a pastor who speaks to millions or the mouth of a disgraced pastor who has fallen greatly. I know God saves because He has save me from the depths of despair.

What will I do if I ever share my story in word or book form and receive a check for it?

I’ll say, “thank you Lord. I do not deserve your grace. I do not deserve your love. And I most certainly do not deserve any good thing.”

If I was still committing adultery, I would agree I don’t deserve any compensation for sharing my testimony or writing. Now, I am no longer an adulterer. If I ever receive a single dime, then I’ll cross that road when I get there.

I’ll just have to say, “Lord, like my life,  it’s yours. What would you have me do with it?”

Fallen Pastor Interviews

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 25-04-2011

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I’m currently doing research for a book that I’m working on for Civitas Press on fallen pastors. I’m working on interviewing fallen pastors from across the country about their experience before and after their fall.

Bottom line – if you are a fallen pastor or know one who would be interested in an interview for the book, please contact me. All the names and details will be kept anonymous. You can email me or you can leave a comment below and leave your contact information and I’ll get back to you. I won’t publish the comment.

Here are the details – I’m writing about the culture that exists within the church and the expectations that are placed upon the pastor and how it relates to his fall. The pastor is still responsible for his sin, but I’m trying to get at how those expectations effect the pastor before and after the fall. Many times, the pastor never finds forgiveness from his former church and that’s part of the story I’m interested in. I know it can be difficult to share. All of the people I’ve interviewed so far have been wonderful and we’ve shared a common bond.

So, if you know someone, or you are someone who has fallen, please contact me.

My Mess, His Message: Introduction

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, anger, blog, Christ, church, circumstance, commandments, david, forgiveness, grace, hypocrisy, pastors, preachers, repentance, writing | Posted on 23-04-2011

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I promised I’d write out my testimony. It’ll take more than one post.

I fell from the pastorate in October of 2009 after pastoring a church for eight years. The following March, I started blogging under a pseudonym at blogger.com. I had to write. Writing helped me clear a lot of the depression, the ideas, and the feelings that were flowing around in my head. Recently, I had to drop the pseudonym of Arthur Dimmesdale, so I deleted a lot of the story and transferred everything here to WordPress.

The pseudonym of Arthur Dimmesdale, of course, is the name of the minister in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, who committed adultery. I was writing to answer a question his character asked in that novel that I posted at the top of that blog – “What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?”

I changed my name, locations, and a lot of details. Strangely, in the beginning, a lot of people thought I was making the whole story up. They thought it sounded too fantastic. I wish. But unfortunately, I was living it.

I also got accused of trying to justify my sin. I want to be clear on this. Don’t ever hear me trying to justify what I did. I’m responsible for my adultery. I did it. I’m the sinner. No one forced me to do it. No set of circumstances made me do it. All of the blame rests upon me. So, if you ever read this blog and think I’m trying to shuffle off my sin on someone else or something that happened – you’re reading it wrong.

Also, don’t expect a lot of details. It’s really not about the story. I’m not writing to provide a provocative novel. I hurt a lot of people. I broke the heart of my ex-wife, I harmed my children, and I hurt an entire church. I hurt my extended family and a lot of friends. I disappointed a lot of people.

One other thing. I don’t write to garner pity or compassion. This isn’t a blog to get you to say, “Well, he did sin, but now I’m supposed to feel sorry for the adulterer.” Nope. That’s not the point either. I sinned and the consequences of that sin will follow me for the rest of my life.

So what is the point of all of this? Great question. There are several points. I didn’t know what some of them were when I started writing, but I know what they are now.

First, I’ve learned that despite my sin, God still loves me. He still loves sinners. I don’t know why He does, but He does.  On the list of people who get looked down in society, pastors who commit adultery are close to the top. Why? Because we knew better. We’re the ones who preached week after week about morality, holiness and God’s truth. Then we showed the greatest hypocrisy by forfeiting it all and in front of God and everyone, we broke His law.

In the wake of that sin, people get hurt. Then they get angry. And that is very, very understandable. They tend to stay angry and hurt for a long time.

According to The Barna Group, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month due to moral failure or burnout. What are those fallen pastors supposed to do? I get emails and messages from fallen pastors frequently. Despite what the world thinks of them, they’re hurting and need help. There is hope and God still loves them. They need to repent and humble themselves. It took me almost a year to humble myself.

Before I humbled myself, I was angry. I was prideful, made a lot of angry remarks to people, wrote some angry letters, and acted like Balaam’s donkey, if you know what I mean.

But God was patient. So what can God do with us? I think part of the answer is in Psalm 51 when David prays for restoration after his sin with Bathsheba. In verse 12, he asks God to restore to him the joy of his salvation, then in verse 13, he promises that he will teach sinners to return to God. In other words, David will teach others to learn from his mistakes. I hope that I can do that.

Secondly, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to fallen pastors across the country. For the most part, it seems that most fallen pastors find no reconciliation with their former churches. I’m not talking about them returning to the pastorate. I’m just talking about forgiveness. Even 20 or 30 years down the road, it doesn’t seem to happen. I would love to see it happen. I don’t know how, but I know that our God is great enough to make it happen. But a change has to happen in both the fallen pastor and the church.

Finally, (and there are more reasons, but I’ll stop here for now), I don’t want this to happen to other pastors. Let me be careful here.  I have honestly had people come up to me and say, “Ray, I’m really unhappy in my marriage and am thinking about committing adultery. What do you think.” I say, “Uh, no. It’s a sin.” They say, “Well, you did it and you seem so happy.” I say, “Just because I did it doesn’t make it right, friend.”

Pastors are weak people, whether they admit it or not. They face a lot of problems, crises, and conflicts. The same problems you face. There are preventative measures that can be put in place to safeguard their marriages and keep them strong for their churches. I get emails from pastors who say, “I’m thinking about committing adultery, what should I do?” Don’t do it. Get help.

The whole issue of my life now, God’s sovereignty, my happiness, and my ability to help people because of what I’ve been through is a whole other post. But for now, know that I don’t want to see anyone commit adultery. Ever. What I went through after violating God’s law was  an awful time.

That being said, the blessings I am experiencing now are nothing but the result of God’s grace. I don’t deserve them. I don’t deserve Him. In spite of my sin, He has blessed me. My heart soars because of His forgiveness. Do I still experience consequences? Yes. But He has covered all of my sin and I do not stand before Him guilty anymore.

That’s a message, no longer a mess.

My Testimony, Audio

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, forgiveness, sermons | Posted on 22-04-2011

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I promised you that I’d share my testimony with you. Last Sunday, I shared it with a local church. I just finished posting it to YouTube – sorry, no video, audio only.

So, if you can’t wait for the typed version, or would rather listen, here it is. It’s a little over 30 minutes long in total.

Goodbye Arthur, Hello World

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog | Posted on 21-04-2011

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Well, here I am. No more hiding behind a pseudonym.

I’ve been writing behind the name of Arthur Dimmesdale for over a year and it’s time for me to let you know who I am. Not that it’s going to change your life or anything.

But I’m in the process of writing a book and I need to be open about who I am. I’m just a guy, born and raised in Russellville, Arkansas, who found his way to western Kentucky. I’m blessed by the love of a beautiful wife, Allison, and three daughters.

My name is Ray Carroll, fallen pastor.

A lot of fallen pastors have reached out to me for help and I hope I’ve helped. I’ve at least listened and shared a common story.

Over the past few days, I’ve interviewed fallen pastors and listened to their stories for my book and my heart has been broken all over again. There are so many hurting pastors out there who just need kindness and forgiveness. Likewise, there are hurting churches that need time to heal.

Over the next few days, I’m going to summarize my fall and retell it briefly in a new way. Thanks for reading.

The Proverbial Cat And The Bag

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anonymity, blog, writing | Posted on 17-04-2011

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Well, the proverbial cat is out of the bag. It was coming, I suppose. But I’m glad it came on my terms.

A few days ago, before I archived my blog, I told my ex-wife Angelica about my blog. She took it real well. I had to tell her because of the book I’m developing with my publisher.

It was actually a lot off my mind. She was very supportive of all of it.

It’s also going to be a matter of time as well that I come full out on this blog. Not that it really matters, I suppose. It’s not going to turn out that I’m a high ranking Senator, Bruce Wayne, or Andy Stanley.

I’m just pleased that over the past year and a half I’ve been able to encourage so many people, that so many have felt they could contact me, and that people have enjoyed my blog. Just don’t be disappointed when you find out I really am weak.